Libertatem Magazine

Kerala High Court: Declaring a Marriage Null and Void Is a Very Serious Matter as It Wipes Out a Jural Relationship

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Facts of the case

The Respondent and the Appellant got married at St.Mary’s Forane Church, Chunkam, Thodupuzha, on 11th May 2015. According to the Respondent’s allegations, the Appellant behaved indifferently since the commencement of the marriage. The arguments below further explain the facts of the case.

Respondent’s arguments before the court

The Respondent submitted that the Appellant was ill-mannered in her words and deeds and had immature behaviour. The Appellant was rude and arrogant and behaved inappropriately during visits to the Respondent’s sister’s house. The Appellant did not take care of the Respondent’s parents and refused to do any household chores. She also was in the habit of leaving the house without informing the Respondent’s parents. 

On 8.7.2015, the Appellant turned violent. She threatened and harassed the Respondent’s bedridden mother. She used to cause severe mental distress to the Respondent’s mother by switching off the house’s lights. Further, they claimed that the Appellant admitted that her father was under medication for a mental disorder and that her elder brother was under treatment for unsoundness of mind, which was concealed from the Respondent at the time of finalising the marriage. This act of suppression from the Appellant’s side was fraud committed towards the Respondent.  

Appellant’s arguments before the court

The Appellant filed a written objection, refuting the allegations in the original petition. The Respondent mentally and physically harassed the Appellant. The Respondent absconded within 14 days after the marriage. The Respondent’s father demanded her to keep all her ornaments at the marital home. She further alleged that her husband and father-in-law used to turn violent and torture her when she got phone calls from her mother. The Appellant always behaved kindly and tried to maintain cordial relations with her husband’s family. The Respondent’s father harassed the appellant in every possible way, which devalued the Appellant’s dignity as a woman and human being. Further, the Respondent always doubted the Appellant, and he seemed to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The Respondent intended to hamper the Appellant’s image in society. 

Court’s analysis

The Court observed that the Respondent had emphasised his pleadings and evidence regarding the alleged instances of cruelty committed by the Appellant. Further, a reading of the Appellant’s written objection and oral testimony would also establish that the Appellant had attempted to prove that the Respondent had meted out cruelty on her and he had taken advantage of his wrong.

The Court further observed that the Respondent had not proved that the Appellant’s father and brother had a mental illness to vitiate the consent for the marriage. Other than for interested oral testimonies, there was no material to arrive at such a conclusion. In light of the nullity’s decision, the Family Court did not venture into alternate relief for divorce.

The Court referred to Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh [(2007) 4 SCC 511], where the Court laid down exhaustive guidelines on the acts that constitute cruelty.

The Court opined that “The Family Court’s observation of the appellant having committed fraud on the Respondent is patently erroneous and unsustainable in law”.

Court’s decision

The Court allowed the appeal and directed the Family Court to consider and dispose of the Original Petition, by the law, as expeditiously as possible, after affording both the Appellant and Respondent an opportunity of adducing additional evidence and being heard. The parties were directed to appear before the Family Court, Thodupuzha, either in person or through their Counsel.

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